Barracks Row: Rapidly Evolving Commercial Corridor Reflects Diverse Capitol Hill Area


Today Barracks Row Main Street released two separate studies analyzing and reporting on business conditions on Barracks Row and the opportunities to stimulate continued growth and development. One of the studies identified the balanced mixture of businesses with an
almost even split between residential, professional/non profits, tangible goods/ restaurants and bars. “This historic street, Washington DC’s first real corridor of commerce has made a phenomenal comeback since 2000 when the National Trust chartered it as one of DC’s Main Street programs,” said Tip Tipton, President of Barracks Row Main street, the organization which has overseen the redevelopment and revitalization of the area. “It’s now home to a bustling mixture of businesses and residences. Our businesses serve the vital needs of the diverse Capitol Hill community.”

Tipton continued: “Earlier efforts were focused on improving the physical space with new sidewalks, trees, street lamps and building facades, and although we will continue to improve the appearance and cleanliness of the street, Barracks Row Main Street will also focus on the consumer experience for residents and visitors to Capitol Hill.” The reports released today included the first Business and Residential Occupancy Survey along with a Needs Assessment and a Small Business Analysis.

The improved conditions on Barracks Row are evident - new and diverse businesses are opening every month. There are over 150 separate businesses and residences which continue to grow as more second floor spaces are filled. The 2011 Business and Residential Occupancy Survey
confirmed balanced growth in all sectors: services, residents, retailers and restaurants. Retailers plus service providers like dry cleaners, phone stores and tax preparers account for 27% of the businesses on Barracks Row; non profits and professionals like dentists and attorneys account
for 32% of the businesses while restaurants account for 21%. “The amount of residential we found really surprised us”, commented Martin Smith, Executive Director of Barracks Row Main Street, “residential units now comprise 16% our street.”

Several years ago DC’s Office of Planning fostered zoning changes here. The new mixed-use zoning assumed that most buildings would have businesses on the first floor with both residents and businesses on the upper levels. “This is exactly what has happened!” exclaimed Smith, “And it’s very good for the community; our buildings are alive with either businesses or residents 24 hours a day.”

The research notes that over 75% of the lively crowds on 8th St SE hail from a one mile radius in Ward 6 – the 20003 and 20002 zip codes. The foot traffic on the street is a laid back mix of local residents, friendly neighbors, workers from the Navy Yard and visitors to restaurants and shops; it’s a blend that feels just right to many newcomers. In November 2010, Ken Michaud, owner of Pioneering Evolution, a soft ware development company for US Navy, moved his new business to one of the upper suites on the 400 block of 8th St. “When I decided to locate here I considered Class A high rises in other parts of the city but they felt too stuffy for how we live today,” Mr. Michaud confirmed.

The new surveys revealed that today’s 8th Street renaissance mirrors the prosperity of the Ward 6 trade area which enjoys an average income 40% above the national average. With this kind disposable income available it is no wonder that there are few vacancies on Barracks Row.

“Our occupancy rate is about 96%,” confirmed Martin Smith, “Our historic buildings are full of antique charm and this attracts a steady stream of potential new businesses from retailers to services to restaurants. Many are undeterred by the quaint shapes and small sizes of spaces on the Row, they love the authenticity and jump right in and adapt their businesses to our spaces - there is an improvement boom all along 8th Street.”

Even with all the renovations, it would seem unlikely that this 200 year old street, home to two military bases, would exemplify the latest in shopping area design trends. Yet that is precisely what 8th St. SE has become: a model of new urbanism. In the past 5 years the development of covered regional malls surrounded by acres of parking has waned, replaced by more intimate open air shopping hubs dubbed “lifestyle” shopping areas, built from scratch to look old, nestled in residential neighborhoods. Most of these new lifestyle shopping areas include first and second floor businesses plus residential units above the stores just like Barracks Row.

Click here to download the Business Census, Market Analysis Summary and Needs Assessment Summary.